I poked my long bangs, frowning. All the other girls had such glorious hairstyles, and mine just hung down like the leaves off a willow branch.
It was my birthday, but no one was home yet. My parents always came home at six, but today, the waiting seemed interminable. And not that fun type of interminable where you desperately try to squeeze in as much playtime or phone time before your parents come home and make you stop. It was that boring type of interminable – just plain insufferable. Just long. Like my bangs.
I tried sleeping, but my heart was too anxious for the birthday celebration to let me relax. So, I decided to sneak into my parents’ closet to see if I could find out what gifts they’d gotten me. Even though I knew no one was home, I was still overcome with a sensation of fear and guilt. I mused that Rodion was right after all – all planning and intelligence went to nought during the moments of commmitting a crime. I knocked down ties and towels all over the place, and when I attempted to replace them, I only created a greater mess. Indeed, I had not discovered a single gift but I had messed up the closet quite terribly. It was very embarrassing.
All for the best, I figured, since it’d give something to make the time pass more quickly. I gave up on finding the gifts and instead devoted my time to picking up the scattered objects and meticulously replace them so that even a person comparing a photograph of the room at the beginning of the day to the closet now would have trouble differentiating the two. When I picked up the final article of clothing, a forest green jacket, I spotted, beneath it, a small box.
It contained a doll, not much different than other dolls I’d seen or played with before. She had one of those pretty figures that some girls adored and some girls denounced, but no one could say was particularly bad. Her dress was brand new and so clean, a sterile white as seen in hospitals. In fact, everything about her was pristine and pure except a spot of blue paint that had somehow found its way onto her lower right arm.
I picked up the box, not knowing what to make of it. It certainly wasn’t wrapped, and who’d give a thirteen-year-old girl a doll, anyhow? But it was very fascinating, and I just sat there, holding the box in my hands. It would be so nice to have a friend as loyal and close and understanding as a doll. Lindsay was my only friend, and even she wasn’t very close – after all, I didn’t see the other eighth graders anywhere but at school. I was always busy doing other things or working on this or that every evening. I was really afraid Lindsay would just give up one day and stop inviting me to go to movies or sleepovers with her. I was really afraid.
I briefly reminisced on Meredith, my best friend in fifth grade, but I couldn’t even remember what she looked like anymore. I ceased to interest her once she joined the basketball team and found the bright energy of her teammates to be all the friendship she needed; I obediently drifted away. Suddenly, I heard a car drive in, so I had no more time to think about the past: I had to get out of the closet ASAP. I quickly fled from the crime scene, returning to my room to crack open my Geometry textbook.
But when I heard my father’s footsteps scaling the stairs, I realized, to my horror, that I was still holding the doll’s box. I quickly stashed it below my blankets, crossing my fingers that he wouldn’t be missing the doll anytime soon.
“Hi, Dad,” I said, diligently working on my Geometry homework. “Lindsay wanted to know if I could sleep over her house this Saturday.”
“Oh?” replied Dad. “Well, you should tell her if you can or cannot, then.”
“Dad!” I shouted, laughing. “I’m asking you if I can!”
Dad gave a belly chuckle, the lenses of his large square glasses moving up and down with his face, causing the gleaming spots to move up and down.
“You should ask Mom,” he concluded. Then, he went back downstairs.
Sighing, I worked on my homework until dinnertime came. Halfway through dinner, I asked Mom if I could go over Lindsay’s house, but she said no. We had to go see my piano teacher give a recital that evening, so it wouldn’t make any sense to go over Lindsay’s house only to sleep.
“Okay,” I said with resignation.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “You can have your cake now! Let’s celebrate your thirteenth birthday!”
Lindsay would definitely never ask again. I was a bad luck friend.
My mother brought out the beautiful cake adorned with thirteen candles, arranged in a circle. She lit the candles and cut the lights, creating a spectacular effect, the orange flickerings so mesmerizing and inciting. Closing my eyes, I considered my birthday wish.
“I wish,” I began in my mind. “I wish that the doll would come to life and be my best friend forever.”
The candles were all out before I even opened my eyes again. My parents clapped, and I sat down, the world spinning all around me.
It was ten o’clock and time to go to bed. My parents had already retired to bed, and I was in my PJs, sitting in the dark atop my pillow. I could feel my eyelids twitching, twitching, then falling like raindrops from a cloud that could no longer hold it in. I felt my body collapsing, but I did not resist. It had been a tiring day, and I’d tried on every new set of clothes I got for my birthday, experimented with the set of paints, and read the first act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
But something felt odd – the blanket was unusually firm, thick, and warm.
“The hell?” I muttered, wearily opening my eyelids. I quietly slid off my bed to flick the lights on. On my bed lay a girl in pajamas that were just like mine but blue. I really couldn’t believe it, so I walked towards her. I thought I saw her flicker once, but my eyes were probably just adjusting to the sudden influx of light.
“Who are you?” I asked. It was the most natural question I could think off. But the girl was snoring. Very loudly.
I grabbed her shoulders and gave her a good shake.
“Uhn,” she said groggily, opening her eyes halfway. “Let me rest, Kristi.”
I eyed her suspiciously when I suddenly caught a glimpse of her right arm. On it was a large, conspicuously blue blotch. Could it be real?
Life had gotten immesurably boring again. Nicole had been sitting there for ages, doing nothing. She’d admittedly become rather bland over the past few weeks, but she’d never left my side, and I was grateful for that.